Tag Archive | "Zack Greinke"

The National League Shortstop Revolution

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The National League Shortstop Revolution

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Recently there has been a rush of hot new shortstops, primarily in the National League. Jean Segura, Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorious are the three hottest new shortstops in the majors. They have all had a bit of prospect hype surrounding them and thus far they have actually been exceeding expectations. The thing is, it is always tough to gauge skill level or future performance based on an initial small sample size. Truth be told, they are all currently hitting the ball quite well. But is this just a hot start to their respective major league careers or are the offensive numbers legit and a nice indication of things yet to come?

JeanSegura

For Segura, the primary piece the Brew Crew received in return for Zack Greinke, there were some mixed reviews at the time of the trade in regards to whether or not the Brewers got enough in return for Greinke. Here is a quick evaluation of Segura from Baseball Prospect Nation, right around the time of the Grienke trade:

“At the plate, Segura is a plus to plus-plus hitter for average with definitively good gap power. There are scouts that believe he can have fringe-average home-run power down the line, making him a high average guy with plenty of extra-base hits.”

From this evaluation and plenty of others I have seen, Segura would make a very solid top of the order hitter. There is that “fringe home-run power” suggested above, but should we have expected it this soon? Segura’s current isolated power sits at .229 thanks in part to six home-runs, while many preseason projections projected a home run range of five to ten over around four-hundred at bats. Segura had yet to post an ISO over .110 anywhere above A-ball. I would say the current .229 ISO is bound to drop, or is it? Well, yeah, it probably is, but maybe not as much as many may think. I mean, it is possible that the power, generally the last skill to develop, has arrived for Mean Jean, right? Sure, it is. I am not sold on the power just yet, but the kid can make contact, that’s for darned sure! Now Andrelton Simmons is a bit of a different story, altogether.

Simmons is a slick fielding shortstop who will flash some nice leather in the field, but as far as hitting is concerned, he is not expected to be overly spectacular. The preseason projections had a slash lines somewhere in the neighborhood of .270/.320/.377. Nothing flashy, but nothing atrocious either, especially with his glove. I, for one, felt like those slash numbers were a tad bit high. Thus far Andrelton’s slash line is .250/.294/.386. However, Simmons is heating up a bit at the plate, lately, showing some power at the plate. In May, small sample size though it is, the slash line for Simmons is .267/.283/.489 . Everything is a bit better, but hold the phone a sec, here! A .489 slugging percentage? Wow! Talk about out of character and exceeding expectations, right?! Through the end of April, Simmons had four extra base hits. Two doubles and two home runs. That was over the span of 87 at bats. In May, over 45 at bats, Simmons already has two home runs and four doubles. According to this wonderful piece by Eno Sarris over at FanGraphs Andrelton (I really do love that first name!) has been receiving hitting tips from Justin Upton, which is not a bad place to receive tips from and may also have helped launch that recent Simmons mini power surge. Now before everyone tries to go out and swindle some unsuspecting fantasy owner in a trade for Simmons, it is interesting to note that all six extra-base hits came in a four game span. In the next four games after that he was 1-16 and the one hit was a single. So, it seems a bit premature to start jumping on any Andrelton bandwagons juuuuusssst yet, unless you are expecting a child and looking for a cool baby name. What I find to be a somewhat less cooler name? Didi.

While I am not a huge fan of Didi has a guy’s name, I think Gregorious is kinda nice! Working on his nickname, I am thinking maybe the Gregorious B.I.G? Well, we can work on that later. Gregorious has come outta the gate smokin’ hot. Didi was 6-13 with 2 dingers in his first three games and he was quickly swooped up in fantasy baseball leagues all across the land. Here is Marc Hulet’s read  on Didi:

‘“a gifted fielder, [with] outstanding range, a plus arm and excellent actions.” On his hitting, Hulet added that “he gets pull happy but has some surprising pop from the left side”.    

There was nothing pointing even to a remote amount of pop from any side of the plate from Didi during is minor league stay. So has the pop arrived? It is possible, sure. I don’t think the power Didi is showing right now is gonna keep up, but he should be a solid hitter. Gregorious has three home runs thus far, but really over a full season you should only expect 10-12 home runs, at this point in his career.

So at this point, I would say, power aside, Gregorious and Segura are the real deal as far as hitting is concerned. They should both post some good XBH numbers without a ton of longballs. As far as Simmons is concerned, he is a great glove man, but not quite there at the plate. Offensively, I would say, Simmons’ has an Omar Vizquel-esque hitting numbers. So drink it in! Welcome the shortstop revolution!

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Kansas City Royals – Contenders Or Pretenders?

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Kansas City Royals – Contenders Or Pretenders?

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

As a baseball fan watching Kansas City suffer for years, I have to wonder if they are actually a good contender this season for the playoffs, or if this is just their 15 minutes of fame.

Kansas-City

There is certainly something for Royals’ fans to get excited about right now. At this point in the year, Kansas City is 17-10, when last season at this time they were only 10-20. A dramatic difference. Pitching, in particular, seems to be carrying most of the team, but their offense is not far behind.

Royal Pitching

Veterans like Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie are having stellar seasons. They have combined for 7 Wins to date, both with having an ERA under 2.50 and WHIP just above 1.00. According to ESPN, while Santana is owned in 97% of fantasy leagues, Guthrie is only owned in 50%. Guthrie brings a commendable work ethic to the team and I think would be a valuable pick-up if he is still available in your league. The right-hander excels at mixing all of his pitches to keep hitters off balance, and he recently threw his first major league shut-out.

The Royals’ starting rotation has been rounded out with the new additions of Wade Davis and James Shields. While Davis is has been struggling since joining Kansas City with a 4.75 ERA, he hopefully can get back down to that 2.43 ERA he finished with in 2012. And Shields may soon become the ace of the team, filling the void that Zack Greinke left. Both Davis and Shields are 2-2 this season.

The Royals’ bullpen has been strengthened with former-starting-pitchers-now-relievers, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar. Chen has not allowed an earned run yet this year in 5 appearances, and Hochevar has only given up 1 earned run in 7 appearances. Greg Holland is settling in nicely as a solid anchor for the bullpen. He has 7 saves so far this year and only 1 blown.

Royal Batting

Kansas City’s pitching has started off hot, but the fans are still waiting to see the promise the line-up showed during Spring Training this year. There are only three batters with an average above .300 right now, Jarrod Dyson is one of them and he only has 20 plate appearances so far.

The power is not quite there yet from their top hitters. It somehow got lost in the transition between Spring Training and the regular season. If this team can get their bats going and keep the pitching consistent, they can be a force for the entire summer.

Fantasy owners might want to watch players like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Mike Moustakas. They have all been showing signs of improving in their last 15 games, and might just break out of their slumps soon. Moustakas is only 39% owned in fantasy leagues which is obviously due to his struggle at the plate. If he can start making solid contact again, he will prove he deserves a position on your fantasy roster.

Even though the Kansas City line-up is not producing the way they are capable of, they can still be tough to beat in the American League Central. But if history is any indication, this poor team does not have a chance. If someone were to walk into the baseball world right now and not know anything about the Royals’ past, they would never know that they are usually toward the bottom of the AL Central division.

First place Detroit Tigers better take notice that Kansas City is only a half game back. Can they keep this up? Is this just a flash in the pan? If the starting pitching can continue eating up innings, their bullpen will be able to stay fresh for the long season. And if their bats start producing, then I would say that the Royals can shed the pretender branding and will be a contender in 2013.

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Potential New Homes For Kyle Lohse

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Potential New Homes For Kyle Lohse

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Chris Caylor

Much has been written about free-agent starter Kyle Lohse remaining unsigned as pitchers and catchers report. Even Lohse’s former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, has shown no interest in bringing him back.

klohse

What gives?

The prevailing theory seems to be that teams do not want to surrender their first-round draft pick for a 34-year-old righty. An alternate theory is that Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, grossly overestimated the interest level in his client, leaving him without a chair when the free-agent music stopped. Whatever the case, one has to think Lohse is anxious to sign with a team and get to spring training.

While Lohse is not an ace-caliber pitcher, he has compiled the best WHIP and HR/9 ratios of his career in the past two seasons. There has to be a market for that, no? Let’s take a look at some teams where Lohse would appear to be a good fit:

 Baltimore – after captivating the town with an expected run to Game 5 of the ALDS in 2012, some people expected the Orioles to make a big splash during the offseason. Instead, division rivals Toronto and Tampa Bay made dramatic changes to their rosters, while the Orioles chose to do some minor tinkering. Lohse would have made a much better (albeit more expensive) addition to Baltimore’s rotation than Jair Jurrjens.

 Texas – the Rangers missed out on Zack Greinke and still need to upgrade their pitching staff. With Colby Lewis not due back from elbow surgery until at least June and lefty Derek Holland coming off an inconsistent 2012, Lohse would be a reliable presence in the middle of the Rangers’ rotation. The only question is whether Lohse – not a power pitcher – would succeed in the Rangers’ hitter-friendly park.

 New York Mets – Had the Mets not been so reluctant to sacrifice their first-round pick (#11 overall), they could have had Michael Bourn patrolling center field. That being the case, it stands to reason that they would not part with that pick for Lohse either. Lohse, however, would be perfect fit for a team that has injury questions surrounding their top three starters (Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Shaun Marcum).

 San Diego – The Padres were one of the NL’s best teams during the 2012 season’s final weeks (no, seriously). Lohse would no doubt enjoy pitching in one of baseball’s most pitcher-friendly parks and would slot in nicely between hard-throwing Edinson Volquez and lefty Clayton Richard. Despite how well this move could work out for both sides, spending significant dollars for a free agent is not the Padres’ way.

 Cleveland – The Indians have already made several big moves this winter – what’s one more? Lohse would do more to solidify the Tribe’s rotation than their other free-agent acquisitions (Brett Myers and Daisuke “the Human Rain Delay” Matsuzaka). There’s still time. Maybe Lohse’s price will drop enough for the Indians to take the plunge.

 Milwaukee – Lohse would represent a major upgrade to a rotation that is paper-thin beyond Yovani Gallardo and Michael Fiers. The Brewers, however, look to be in cost-cutting mode again after fruitless postseason runs in 2009 and 2011, so this would be a surprise.

Of course, the way this offseason has gone, the Toronto Blue Jays are liable to swoop in and sign him. Or maybe the Fort Knox, er, Los Angeles Dodgers. ESPN even linked the Nationals to Lohse recently, which strikes me as a bit baffling. The only thing that seems certain is that he won’t be back with the Cardinals, thanks to their deep reserve of right-handed starters. As the Cardinals recently learned with Chris Carpenter, though, all it takes is one phone call to significantly change a team’s plans.

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A New Kind Of California Gold Rush

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A New Kind Of California Gold Rush

Posted on 08 February 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

Many say that the Super Bowl is the greatest game of them all. It is a great game. It is a game that also means that the day after our attention turns to the best game ever invented. Pitchers and catchers begin to report to Spring Training soon to begin the 2013 season!

CountriesOfBaseball

One of the big off-season topics as always is the Free Agent class choosing their fate. This year’s class was headlined by outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke. The common denominator between the two was that they both chose teams that play in the state of California. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim respectively were the benefactors of the two players.

These two signings were just the latest of high price all star talent heading to the Golden State. At the start of the 2012 season, the Angels won the Albert Pujols award along with the surprise signing of pitcher C.J. Wilson. Just a few weeks into the season they struck it rich with eventual Rookie of the Year and near MVP Mike Trout. The Angels started to become loaded with talent and major contenders in the American League.

Across town in LA were the Dodgers. For much of the year they were contending for a division championship. But then, the “Magic” came and so did the money. Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson among others became the new ownership group of the storied ball club. One of the first digs they made was a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox bringing over All Star talent with show me the money contracts in the form of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford.

The 2012 season ended with neither Los Angeles team making the post season. Instead, the post season show was highlighted by the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants. For the geography majors, San Francisco is also located in the state of California. The Giants won their second World Series title in three seasons.

This type of success and big money moves sound all too familiar. These types of moves, trades, and titles are typically reserved for the east coast teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. In the last four seasons those three teams have been in at least the top seven team payrolls in baseball. World Series success has also followed as each team has won at least one title in the 2000’s. Fans in other markets hated the east coast tilt of the game. It was perceived that monopolies were forming out east and Evil Empires casted large shadows on the small markets. California was just a vacation spot. However, it appears that the tide is turning and the rush is heading west.

It was January 24th, 1848 when the California Gold Rush began. Travelers and miners migrated to the state in the hopes of finding gold and the effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Fast forward to 2012, 2013 and the trend seems to now be for All Star ball players migrating west for big money and the ultimate gold ring.

Why is there a growing trend of moving west? Is it the weather, the lifestyle, or is it simply just the money? For the last decade there has been countless discussions about playing on the east coast adds a different element of pressure, that the Yankee pinstripes or Fenway fanatics demand greatness and nothing else. If you do not bring home a championship to the Bronx or Yawkey Way then the season was a failure. Many big name free agents have not quite lived up to the pressure of east coast baseball.

Perhaps that could be the cause for the move. Players are going west for a less stressful environment. It does not quite seem so scary when crowds arrive late, leave early, and the rest of the country is sleeping. Even if a few more championships do land in California, the hatred that fans have for the Yankees and others may never arise for the Angels and Dodgers. After a long day on the beach, it is hard to hate. As long as there is still east coast baseball, attention will be directed that way first and foremost. California may be just fine with that. They will continue to do their own thing in their own time zone.

The Giants have been the first to strike it rich with two championships. However, the surprise Oakland A’s are reigning division champs and the two teams in Los Angeles do not seem to have a bottom to their bank accounts. They are banking on the gold nugget signings this year of Hamilton and Greinke to get them to the mountain top. The true baseball beauty is that each organization is doing it a different way. California is providing many philosophies, and a nice tan. Before our eyes, the west may be overtaking the east. Only time will tell if this rush is as substantial as the one in 1848.

Could the east be left in the cold and not just weather wise? The Golden State has the trophy, the money, and the players are following.

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Josh Hamilton and The Changing Face of the American League

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Josh Hamilton and The Changing Face of the American League

Posted on 17 December 2012 by Trish Vignola

Until recently, the Angels were planning on sporting no more than a $145 million payroll in 2013. Enter Josh Hamilton.

JoshHamiltonAngels

Start giggling now.

It seemed like they were done when the acquisition of two starting pitchers (Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton) and two back-end relievers (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett). That pushed them to about $140 million.

Angels’ owner Arte Moreno, one offseason removed from spending more than $315 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, decided he couldn’t let another winter go by not being the center of attention. The opportunity presented it self and prompted Moreno to push the payroll to a franchise record of about $165 million:

The acquisition of Hamilton makes cost-controlled Angels outfielders like Peter Bourjos and/or Mark Trumbo expendable. This gives them an opportunity to trade for a starting pitcher (like knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets who is currently in a stalemate in his contract negotiations with the Amazins’). It also counters the big-ticket moves made by the crosstown-rival Dodgers, who are fresh off signing Zack Greinke to a five-year, $147 million contract that the Angels were at one point unwilling to offer. It cripples the division-rival Rangers, who lost out on trading for James Shields, won’t be able to add Justin Upton and can’t bring back Hamilton. Adding Hamilton comes one offseason after the Angels signed Wilson, the Rangers’ former ace, to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

“Really excited to dust off the Xbox controllers for the next few years on the road,” Wilson wrote on his Twitter account, @str8edgeracer. “It’s a great day to be an Angel/Angel fan!” Speaking to Rangers reporters at a media luncheon on Thursday, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Hamilton never gave his former club a chance to match the Angels’ offer.

“Our full expectation was that the phone call was going to be before he signed, certainly not after and giving us an idea,” Daniels told local reporters. “Josh had indicated recently, last week, he told us he felt it might be time to move on, but that we were still talking. I’m not going to get in to the reason, technically, why. I thought we had additional conversations this week that had moved it along in a positive direction. Apparently not.”

The 31-year-old Hamilton won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2010 and has long been considered one of baseball’s best all-around players, hitting .313 while averaging 33 homers and 107 RBIs the last three seasons. With the Angels, Hamilton’s left-handed bat seemingly fits perfectly behind Pujols in the cleanup spot. The likely scenario MLB.com trots out is to have Hamilton starting in left field, Mike Trout staying in center and Trumbo in right. This makes the chances of Bourjos being dealt more likely than ever.

Although he wants to stay in Anaheim, but Bourjos wants an opportunity. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen now,” he said when reached by phone Thursday. “But at the end of the day, from my perspective, I just want to play. I really don’t want to go through what I went through last year where I wasn’t playing. The last two months, I got like three at-bats. So hopefully, if I’m the odd man out, hopefully they’re willing to trade me and I’m able to go somewhere and play every day.”

With the Angels bottomless pockets and the Yankees trying to get under the cap, the landscape of the American League is starting to change. No longer will big spenders be solely relegated to the Northeast. Will this guarantee that all roads to October will lead through the left coast? I’m sure that teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers will have a lot say about that. Nonetheless, the hot stove just got very interesting.

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